Stream of Consciousness: Extraction | JustDaMessenger
“Got a bag and fixed my teeth.”
I’m sure my “bag” doesn’t quite mirror that of the Nobel laureate, Cardi B. Regardless, she was right: “it ain’t cheap.” My latest, long overdue, visit to the dentist/oral surgeon resulted in me being face to face with one of my greatest insecurities: my teeth.
Year after year, I allowed myself to embrace this façade; appearing to have a smile worthy of compliment, while knowing the closeted truths of my teeth and their roots. Each periodical inquiry of whether I’ve ever had braces was just another burst of air funneling through a tube, used to blow up my ego.
Deep down inside, I knew the truth. Until recently, my oral regimen wasn’t up to par. To be clear, at minimum, I would brush twice a day. Over time, I learned that brushing wasn’t enough. Yet, the wake-up call was just a little too late for me. Combine poor oral hygiene with unhealthy eating habits and no dental coverage, and you’re sure to get at least one toothache that makes you want to fight your momma. Ask me how I know.
In my middle school days, I sustained significant damage to my teeth. Aside from cavities, several of my teeth cracked/broke. The years flew by as those damaged teeth went untreated. Yet, at some point, an unbearable pain was triggered in one of my teeth, which led to me finally having oral procedures done to remedy the pain.
Let’s just say, we weren’t in the position financially to afford the follow up procedures. With the passage of time, fillings fell out, root canals were compromised, and a series of oral complications went untreated because I simply couldn’t afford it. Considering this period in my life, I wasn’t even aware of methods to get assistance with covering the cost.
This lingered over my head throughout college, all the way up until this very day. Even though I’ve begun to tackle it head on, there is still a lot of pain that comes along with it. For nearly my entire life, I was self-conscious over my teeth. Externally, they appear fine. Again, quite often, folks would ask me if I ever had braces, further commenting that my teeth looked decent. I was afraid that if people knew the truth, they would laugh at me, similarly to how the dentist receptionist laughed at my x-rays years prior. I felt so embarrassed that I didn’t go to the dentist again, for nearly three years.
That ended today.
Blood in the Sink
If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “couldn’t have been me.” Or “blessed your heart,” leading up to the surgery, I would have like twenty doll hairs. Which is relatively a lot given that it’s enough to buy about nineteen packs of the applesauce that I’ve had to eat all week because of the surgery. Here is where I drop my shameless plug for my Mango Peach Apple Sauce fund; CashApp/Venmo: JustDaMessenger. Hell, I deserve it after what I had to experience!
The, “couldn’t have been me” and “bless your heart” statements aren’t completely unwarranted. Most were a direct response of me informing people that I wouldn’t be getting “put under” for the procedure. Up until this point, I never allowed myself to be sedated during a procedure; a decision I truly regretted this go around.
For this particular appointment, I got tooth 30 extracted. I assumed this experience would be comparable to getting my wisdom teeth taken out. Boy was I wrong! Initially, things went as expected. The needle that they injected in my mouth to numb me felt like a strong pinch, but that was expected. I knew in a few moments, I would feel the area where the needle was inserted. Moments later, the doctor entered with his synthetic rubber gloves prepared to rip the tooth from my mouth. At least, that’s what it felt like he did.
Despite the right rear of my mouth being numbed, I felt every ounce of the pressure and pain that came with him using some sort of clamping tool to split my tooth down the middle. As saliva and blood formed a pool in my mouth between suctions, I winced with every tug made to my tooth. It was arguably one of the most painful experiences of my life. Period.
I was numb, but was hyper aware of the agony of the extraction. My fists were clinched, with my nails digging into the very flesh that they’re attached to. I wanted to scream; to moan from the excruciating pain. I wanted to flood the room with a river of my tears, belting a cry that could be heard from the motherland.
I couldn’t scream,
I couldn’t cry,
but I could feel.
It was a feeling that I knew all too well; feeling paralyzed, incapable of reacting, despite feeling as if your soul is being tormented. As I stared blankly into the lights that shined above my head, magnifying my soul’s greatest insecurity, I was reminded of how I felt each time I read the article of another member of the black community
- murdered by a police officer
- hanging from a tree
- gone missing
and so many other atrocities that we have to witness daily from a screen in the palm of our hands. There used to be times that I would cry alone all night. I would scream and punch whatever was in sight. There was a time where the pain was so prominent, that it produced an involuntary physical response. Yet, recently, I’ve felt like everyday has been a replica of my time under the doctor’s surgical loupe. I see these tragedies and feel every ounce of mental, emotional, and physical turmoil. I can no longer scream. I can no longer cry. I no longer feel the desire to repost a picture or comment a hashtag.
The tears are finally forming. I’m going to allow myself to feel this.
Unfortunately, but often systemically, as youth, we experience deficiencies in our health and can go years without getting treated, primarily due to the lack of access. The reality of the matter, for many of us, is that these issues never get addressed. Within our youth, we feel invincible. It’s not until we reach adulthood that those symptoms add up, ultimately developing into chronic health issues. Equally importantly, because these issues grow to be much more complex, as opposed to when the injury/damage was originally sustained, treatment becomes even more of a financial cost/burden. While this is directly correlated with the physical component referenced in the blog above, this also aligns with mental and emotional health as well. Though it’s never too late, my hope is that today becomes a day where you intentionally target an area of your life that requires the attention, that has been put off for much too long. More importantly, as you grow, utilize your journey to influence those that came before you and the next generation, ultimately eliminating the generational holds that may exist within your family structure.
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